Orcas, Humpback whales, Dolphins and Porpoises feeding in the swirling current!

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August 22nd

Our sightings: Orca, Humpback whales, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Common Murres, Rhinoceros and Cassins Auklets, Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers, Black Turnstones, Red-necked Phalaropes and Gull species.

It felt like an afternoon matinee out on the water today. The first half was spent enjoying a ballet performance as dolphins, Orca (A30’s) and porpoises danced amongst each other in the strong flood tide that ran quickly through the narrow entrance of Blackney Passage, Humpback whales were also in the mix!  All species were working the tide, hunting for fish that also utilized the tide for its own purpose.

The second half was spent out in the wide open top end of Blackfish Sound as Humpback whales put on an acrobatic display. Multiple flukes could be seen from all directions and one whale tail slapped numerous times then completed its performance by doing a full blown breach. Another whale brought its wide open jaw up to the surface and began to trap feed. Before the curtain closed the final act was a lunge, as a Humpback forcefully launched its upper body in a forward motion to snap at a school of fish darting near the ocean’s surface.

This recital all took place under an overcast sky, among the threads of Seasmoke that wisped through the lower sky like Northern Lights. A show is not complete until an encore is delivered and it was the sun that took the final bow. As we journeyed home amongst the islands the sun appeared from behind the many clouds and offered us stunning light that saturated the beautiful stage of mountains, islands, forest and sea.

Photo’s taken by Dave Jones have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Humpback whales, Orca’s, a partial eclipse and seasmoke drifting far and wide!

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Today’s sightings: Orca, Humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Black Turnstones, Red-necked Phalaropes, Kingfishers, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers and various Gull species.

Humpback whales, Orca, a partial eclipse and drifting Seasmoke were all highlights from our day of touring in this Northern Vancouver Island region today.

It was a cloudy, grey day but the colour dimmed even more so when a partial solar eclipse occurred while we were out on the water. This is when the moon passes between the earth and sun, blocking a portion of the sun. It seems as though a shadow from a huge mountain hovered above us and the entire area turned eerie quiet. Whether or not the whales and other animals could sense this event, we all thought about it and wondered.

Every day we see numerous Humpback whale blows on the distant horizon and everyday it seems the numbers are increasing. More feasting occurred today, the menu provided by the fragile food chain that needs to feed so many different species in this area. Orcas were also in the vicinity today and the A30’s and I15’s kept our guests company for a portion of each tour. In the morning the Orcas were travelling west in Blackfish Sound and by the afternoon they were easterly bound in Johnstone Strait.  It is fascinating to watch the orcas spread out and forage with at times miles in between the individuals. When a turn from one individual is made, you suddenly glance through binoculars far across the Strait and realise that every single whale has turned. Perhaps it is telepathic or maybe one specific call was given by the matriarch, and so every whale is guided in this change of direction.

As we head into late summer, autumn only weeks away, we are seeing the first signs of migrating birds. Yesterday one of our birding guests identified an unusual bird for this region, a Wandering Tattler. The Stellar Sea Lions are growing in numbers and pretty soon we shall start seeing the Sooty Shearwaters gathering in large numbers, having a last feed before their impressively long journey to New Zealand.
We are entering into the part of the season that every year wins the hearts of all the locals who call this place home.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s taken with a telephoto lens by Dave Jones have been cropped.

Bubble net feeding Humpback whales, Orcas and so much more!

 

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August 20th

Our sightings: Orca, Humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Black Turnstones, a Wandering Tattler, Red-necked Phalaropes, Kingfishers, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers and various Gull species.

It was a day of feasting bubble-net feeding Humpbacks. The overcast but calm weather provided excellent whale viewing conditions. Blows were seen from miles away and when a whale’s limb appeared above the surface, whether it was a tail, head or pectoral fin, it too could be easily seen from a fair distance away.

Bubble net feeding is a technique that has only in recent years been observed in these waters. In early summer, only one whale was seen using this technique and now we are witnessing an additional whale. Lucky and Moonstar are our bubble-net feeding masters and they are a delight to watch.

Having observed Lucky using this method throughout the summer, it seems as though this whale has refined it’s feeding technique. The circular bubble nets created, seems tighter and smaller with an additional circle created in the centre. Perhaps this is helping concentrate the bait-ball of fish even more. Lunging through the centre of this circle of bubbles is energetically athletic. On tour today we witnessed a Stellar sea lion feasting in the same net of bubbles, it made for some extraordinary viewing!

Throughout the day our guests did not know which way to turn their heads as numerous Humpback blows were seen in all directions. Some whales were foraging on their own while a few pairs were seen travelling together. Orcas showed up in the latter part of the day so we indulged in some fantastic viewing of these black and white beauties.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken by Dave Jones using a telephoto lens and have been cropped. The Bald Eagle and photo’s of guests onboard were taken by Robin Quirk and have been cropped as well.

The ocean was full of treasures!

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August 19th

Our sightings: Humpback Whales, Orca, Dall’s porpoise, Harbour seals. Stellar sea lions, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

It was a busy day for Seasmoke Whale Watching as three tours went out to play and thankfully the weather was mild. Fog took the day off and so the air was fresh and clear, and the sea welcomed us with tranquility.

The very first sighting of a whale today was one that breached and it was a Humpback. More blows were seen and after making our way to the action, we observed numerous other blows as well as a whale known as Moonstar was bubble-net feeding. The ocean came alive as the current stirred up the sea bringing rich nutrients to the surface. Auklets, Murres and numerous gulls arrived on scene to take part in the feast. They dove into chaos of current and bubbles, then rose again with a beak full of fish. The chorus of varied squawks and shrieks filled the motionless air.

A report of Orcas in the area turned our attention and boat in their direction. Thankfully they were fairly close and it took little time for us to reach them. They too were making good use of the abundance of food in the area. Their buffet consisted of fresh salmon and they were not the only specie hunting this local cuisine. Our guests witnessed an unusual event, as two Dall’s Porpoise swam by our silently drifting boat in pursuit of a salmon. All was seen underneath the surface due to the sea being ultra-calm and transparent.

Not only were there Humpbacks and over 60 Orca were in the area, we had a wonderful sighting of Sea Lions. A generous group of Stellar Sea Lions sailed by our vessel, some of them had their flipper poised in mid-air, as they regulated their body temperature. Evidence of Sea Otter was present as a devoured Sea Urchin floated by us in the current and the sounds of Kingfishers and Oystercatchers drifted to us from the forested shoreline. It was a Plethora of sights, sounds and awesome encounters summarized perfectly by one of our guests: “Today the ocean was full of treasures”.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken by Dave Jones with a telephoto lens and have been cropped.

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These four photo’s taken by Robin Quirk have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

A wonderful mix of Orcas, Humpback whales, Minke whales and more!

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August 17th

Sightings: Orcas, Humpback whales, Minke whales, Dall’s porpoise, Harbour seals, Stellar sea lions, Bald Eagles, Black-tailed deer, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemot’s, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

Sometimes one has to pinch themselves to make certain we are not in a dream. It was dream-like on our tour today mainly due to the variety of whales we encountered as well as the timing of these sightings. We literally saw whale blows only minutes after departing Alder Bay. We knew there was food around due to the large group of feasting birds that seemed to be devouring a bait ball. The individual Humpback that approached the feeding frenzy of birds, started to trap-feed only minutes after we stopped to view it. The large gaping jaw parted the water in which it rose from, to scoop up the schooling fish that innocently swam by. Although it seemed effortless for the whale it certainly takes time, patience and continuous foraging to score such a meal.

Shortly after the Humpback sighting we found the two Minke whales who had an hour earlier been sighted from shore on Cormorant Island where they had been observed travelling east past the Nimpkish River. It was exciting to see these two smaller baleen whales, especially so soon after the Humpback whale encounter and then only moments later we sighted Orca blows in the distance! We literally felt like we hit the jackpot on our tour today. The orcas were from the language group called G clan. They traveled and foraged and within this mix were spontaneous surfaces from Dall’s Porpoise. How wonderful it is to see different species sharing in the abundance of the ocean. Our guests did not know which way to turn their heads as it was action packed at a full 360 degrees.

On our journey home, nature continued to reveal its splendour. A Stellar Sea Lion was thrashing about tenderizing a salmon it had successfully hunted. Humpbacks continued to keep our company and more bait balls were seen, shown to us by the large groups of foraging birds that made more noise than an orchestra tuning up. It was delightfully muddled and anarchic but music to our ears.

We saw two more Minke whales when nearing the dock at the end of our tour. It is likely the same two that we had seen earlier and was a treat to see that they were still together as sightings of Minke whales in our area is usually singular. We arrived back at the dock to off-load our emotionally drained passengers that departed with vivid memories that shall be stored in their minds for years to come.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s were taken with a telephoto lens by Dave Jones and have been cropped.

Humpback whales accompanied by the eerie silence of fog!

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August 18th

Sightings: Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoise, Harbour seals, Stellar sea lions, Mink, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Red Necked Phalaropes, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

This morning’s tour was one of exploration. The limited visibility due to the dense fog certainly made us work hard to find critters. We island hopped and transited narrow passages to offer our guests the opportunity to view the animals that are seen closer to shore. The Harbour seals rested on exposed rocks that appeared like gravestones above the sea and gulls sat above them, distinctly white in contrast. Against the soft grey backdrop and mist-clouded trees, the Bald Eagles’ large frame looked like a mere shadow.

When arriving to areas known for Humpbacks, we stopped, shut down the engines and listened in the eerie silence. After two stops and not a single sound of a surfacing whale we decided to cross Blackfish sound using our instruments to navigate. Finally a loud, thunderous blow was heard as a Humpback rose to the surface and emptied its lungs completely of air and filled them right up again. This Humpback was identified as Moonstar and was actually feeding. On a couple of occasions Moonstar appeared jaw first out of the water to scoop up a loose school of bait fish, the perfect meal for a Humpback.

At the edge of the fog Dall’s porpoise were seen traveling. A lone Stellar Sea Lion feasted on a salmon carcass and more Humpbacks were seen as the fog lifted. Of added interest and surprise we watched as 5 – 6 mink scrambled out of the water and up onto shore on one of the islands!

Some days we have to work hard to find whales as we toil with the dynamics and spontaneous balance of ocean, tides, weather and wildlife. It is a gift when in these challenging conditions we find success and we are grateful.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken by Dave Jones with a telephoto lens and have been cropped.

A glorious calm day for viewing Orcas, Humpback whales and so much more!

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Today’s sightings: Orcas, Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Stellar sea lions, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Black-tailed deer, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemot’s, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

It is a delight working within a whale watching community that when on the water; information is shared in regards to where the whales are. People are working together, communicating sightings and helping each other whenever needed. This information is also shared with the researchers, so they too are utilizing the resources of having boats and eyes on the water.

Our skipper heard a report that Orcas were traveling in the fast expansive open water of the Queen Charlotte Strait. Thankfully the weather was working with us today as the visibility was crystal clear and the sea conditions calm.

The Orcas were spread out, reaching from one island to another with miles in between. Amongst the pods of Orca foraging were foraging Humpback whales so at times we could see both species surfacing at the same time. With the Mainland Mountains in the background and picturesque islands and islets in the foreground, birds patiently waiting for a bait-ball to drift by and the sounds of blows in the distance, it was a wonderful feast of mother nature at its most abundant.

As the food multiplies so does all the critters that forage in these parts. Our bird numbers are rising, the Sea Lions are moving in, soon more dolphins will be sighted on a daily basis and once all the Eaglets and other chicks are fledged, the trees and sky will be clouded with bird life.

Peak season from the animal’s perspective will soon be upon us. How amazing it is to see them successfully hunt and forage, keeping their specie alive and thriving.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken with a telephoto lens by Dave Jones and have been cropped.